In a semi-intentional act of cultural heresy*, I have largely avoided the Harry Potter craze. I have never read any of the books, visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, taken online quizzes to see which house I would be in, or watched all of the movies. I am, by all accounts, a muggle. But, since I was able to pick up the book for free, I decided it was time to see what all the buzz was about. I am happy to report that after reading Harry Potter #1, I get it.
There is a lot to like in the book. Underdog stories are inspiring. Anytime there is a secret or a conspiracy, we want to be in the know. We like groups of friends doing friend-things. We like hoary wizards! We like sports! Most exciting to me was how lived-in the world of Hogwarts felt. For example, the culture of Hogwarts seemed like it had gone on for generations. The points system, the houses, quidditch, the ghosts, and even showing up for school felt very real (especially for a story about wizard kids). I had learned about quidditch and the houses via cultural osmosis a decade ago, so it is easy to forget what an influence Rowling was on pop culture. (My alma mater has a quidditch team!) Experiencing the world for the first time as a reader was exciting.
My only real complaints are 1) Hagrid and 2) it didn’t feel like a complete story. First, Hagrid was not my favorite character to read about, and he takes up what feels like a lot of the book. Second, Harry Potter #1 didn’t feel like it had a beginning, middle, and end. However, I enjoyed walking around in the world so much that I didn’t mind enough to dock more than a star.
Amazing work, Ms. Rowling.
*I just do this sometimes. I have never seen Titanic, and I didn’t eat a s’more until I was 23.